WILMINGTON — The Wilmington Public Safety Dispatch Center operated out of the Massachusetts State 911 Department’s mobile PSAP while their operations room received renovations starting Jan. 21. This allowed the center to continue directing 911 calls as normal with no noticeable change to Wilmington callers and residents.
PSAP stands for public safety answering point and refers to the work of dispatch centers everywhere. Dispatch Supervisor Corey Swift described the mobile PSAP as a “call center on wheels” — a truck that sat in the parking lot of the public safety building. Swift said that this is the first time in his 10 years they’ve had a need to utilize this service.
He further explained the truck is intended to help PSAPs continue to field calls for whatever reason that operations need to be moved, from natural disasters to gas explosions and everything in between. In this case, it was only needed for remodeling and not because of a crisis.
The public safety center coordinated with the State 911 department to run out of the mobile PSAP so that public safety wouldn’t be affected whatsoever during their planned renovations. Changes were also minimized to the town’s dispatchers, who only had to move some data lines and equipment into the parking lot of their usual building.
It’s preloaded with software that dispatchers would use in the office. The other option would’ve been to run operations out of the backup dispatch center which wouldn’t have any of Wilmington’s radios or business phone lines pre-set.
Another benefit of the mobile station is that it’s free to the town. Swift explained that the State 911 department uses 911 surcharges to pay for this and other related services.
According to mass.gov, “All telephone customers, regardless of wireless or landline, pay the monthly surcharge for each line capable of accessing the 9-1-1 system.”
These are phone bill charges being directly translated into provided service.
“Every dollar that they get in, they have to spend on making sure everyone has access to 911 at all times,” Swift said.
While their calls were fielded outside, the dispatch room had a number of cosmetic updates including new flooring, furniture, and paint. Swift described their old furniture as run-down and the space itself as limited. He added that while their computers still work, their other technology needed upgrading.
All of these changes were funded in advance and approved at the Town Meeting last year.
“We’re thankful that the town has invested in this,” Swift continued. “It’s good that the town cares about dispatchers and wants us to have the tools we need for our jobs.”
He shared that they’ve tried to steward the town’s money as best as they could and hope to get 10-15 years out of this year’s updates.
Besides maximizing the usefulness of their space, the public safety dispatch center is now poised to expand their staff. They currently have four dispatcher positions, one of which is open and seeking applications. The department operates with two dispatchers around the clock. Swift said that they’re adjusting to three dispatchers working most of the time.
“If we ever need to expand, we have the ability to expand without asking the town for more money.”
He shared that the three current dispatchers were more than willing to endure the cold for the short-term with high hopes for the renovations when they returned on Wednesday.